New crosswalk signs downtown

MARQUETTE – Officials are hoping new pedestrian crossing signs, erected this week on Front Street, will help to calm traffic heading into town from the roundabout to the south.

Results of a recent Downtown Development Authority traffic and parking study indicated fast-moving northbound vehicular traffic between the roundabout and Washington Street made Front Street an unfriendly area for pedestrians.

DDA Executive Director Mona Lang said the signs are meant to alert and educate drivers.

“One of their observations was that traffic moves too quickly on Front Street and that Front Street is just not walkable,” she said. “We concentrated on Front because of that.”

The effort is a collaboration among the DDA, which purchased the signs, the city, which installed them and the city police department.

Lang said the signs represent “a pilot effort” and that the organization will decide in the future whether to expand the initiative.

“I believe it is going to be effective because I’ve been watching out my window and it actually slows traffic down,” Lang said Wednesday. “Cars slow down as they’re coming through there.”

Lang said there could be additional traffic-calming measures taken on the Front Street hill, in addition to the signs, which warn motorists to yield to pedestrians in the marked crosswalk, in accordance with state law.

The signs are technically correct in warning motorists to yield, but Marquette Police Detective Capt. Gordon Warchock said the pedestrian right-of-way law is a bit complicated in the state of Michigan.

“When a pedestrian is in the crosswalk, they have the right of way,” he said. “However, that doesn’t give them the right to step off the curb into the crosswalk in front of oncoming traffic.”

Pedestrians, he said, can’t step into a crosswalk expecting traffic to stop for them. If they are in the crosswalk as traffic approaches, however, they have the right of way.

“To put it simply, if you’re standing on the curb in that crosswalk and there is traffic coming, you don’t step off the curb in front of it,” Warchock said. “It’s an issue that an officer, if he was responding to an accident, they would use their discretion, investigate it and determine what happened and who would be at fault.”

Warchock said he thinks citizens are often unaware of the exact specifics of the law, but that pedestrian accidents aren’t a major issue in Marquette.

“I think sometimes there might be some confusion on it, but we don’t have a mass amount of pedestrian-vehicle accidents,” he said. “(On Front Street), we’re just trying to make an area that’s used by pedestrians and, of course, motor vehicles safer.”

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.